Don't Try Harder, Try Different!

Simple strategies for handling anxiety and stress.

Reassurance Seeking

No one else can 100 percent predict if everything will really be OK.

Another safety seeking behavior that needs to be addressed more in-depth is reassurance seeking. Asking others for reassurance is what I call "Using an external conscience." Since I cannot trust my own judgment about this experience, I need you to tell me what you think about it. I will trust your judgment.

There is an inherent problem with this line of thinking, and that is believing that everyone else knows what is better for you to do than you do. If this is the way that you approach things, then there really is a problem, because for every person that you ask for reassurance, they will have a slightly different opinion or idea about what to do in the situation you find yourself in than the others you asked, and therefore you will still have to ultimately decide what it is you want to do anyway.

Plus, you are also putting your fate into the hands of others, and they are going to make suggestions based on their personalities and the way they see the world. If you do things because others tell you to do them, then you are choosing to live your life as they suggest and not as you necessarily want to.

Plus, there could be a real conundrum if you ask two people to give you reassurance about something and one tells you to do something one way, and the other tells you to do it in the opposite way. What are you to do then in that situation? Now you might disappoint one of your friends if you choose not to follow their advice. Or, if you do not follow their advice and something goes wrong, they might say, "I told you so." Is it worth the risk to have something like this happen? Hard to say.

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Of course, there is a positive to reassurance seeking, and that is the fact that if anything goes wrong, you are able to blame the person who gave you the advice because you would have never done the thing they suggested had you not been given that piece of advice.

Reassurance seeking is really a cop out. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with getting others opinions on things, weighing the pros and the cons of the possibilities, and then coming up with an informed decision. But, if you base all of your choices only on the fact that others told you it would be OK to do something, then there is a problem. If you live your life this way, you will just get more stressed over time because you will just keep thinking that you are inept at making good choices and that you need the assistance of others in order to get through life.

So, make informed decisions, but YOU make them and YOU become responsible for the consequences of them. Otherwise, you will be ruled by the statements or perceived reactions of others to what it is you ought to do instead of choosing to do something for yourself.

 

Patrick McGrath, Ph.D., is the Director of the Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital's Center for Anxiety and OCD Program and president of Anxiety Centers of Illinois. more...

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